Rush - Snakes and Arrows

Bruce Turnbull 16/06/2007

Rating: 4/5

One of the most innovative, creative and talented acts to ever emerge in rock, Canadian trio Rush are finally back after five long years to deliver their outstanding follow up to 2002's “Vapour Trails”, and indeed, it is a wonder to behold. Sort of. It is debatable whether this is the same band that recorded such progressive rock milestones as “2112” or “Permanent Waves”, but like most bands that have survived the portentous pull of the 90s, Rush have developed a sound decidedly more modern and more commercial in comparison to their old material. Honestly, I always liked Rush, but preferred Marillion, as in general I believed they took the clay Rush had made and moulded something extraordinarily beyond their years; but unlike Marillion's latest offering, “Snakes and Arrows” floored me with the first listen.

For a band that have endured over 30 years of triumph and failure, Rush certainly sound young and vibrant. In opener “Far Cry”, we are driven firmly to the crossroads where the two most prominent factors of the band's sound intertwine; with its choppy, disjointed intro and hungry, ambitious chorus, we can see how progressive and yet how commercial Rush can be. Interestingly, this song probably has the strongest hook - which I couldn't stop singing for days - and initially, this is a great way to see how well Rush fare in 2007 amongst feisty newcomers like Wolverine and Riverside. “Amour and Sword” is a little more introspective, with yet another great hook line and some sombre lyrics; some of the best I've heard from drummer Neal Peart - whose technical footwork during the intro is astonishing in its simplicity. Vocalist/bassist legend Geddy Lee still sounds amazing, and can drive his small, fragile voice into a stratosphere of emotion as Alex Lifeson's groovy guitars wash over him like a wave.

One thing that is unyielding, Rush sound heavier than ever; with some thick power chords and almost metal-like riffing surfacing in possibly the heaviest and most accomplished track on the album, “Spindrift.” As usual, variety is dished up by cherry-pickers and there is a startling array of propriety, and also belligerence as the album drifts in between commercial melodies and progressive time signatures. Possibly the strongest track musically is instrumental “The Main Monkey Business” which kicks things off with a riff Pain of Salvation wouldn't be afraid to use. Finishing the way they started with a kick-ass up tempo number, “We Hold On” blasts through some very memorable riffing with a sweet, uplifting chorus that shines on until the curtains draw to a close and the show, finally, is over.

With “Snakes and Arrows” Rush have scaled the walls of their fortress of history, and have an abundance of doors in which to enter. The only thing is, like the last Marillion album, there is a bit too much filler on offer here, but for what it's worth, I'd like to see Muse sound this good in 30 years' time.